Vitamins and Minerals Part 2: Fat-Soluble Vitamins
By now, you know a lot about water-soluble vitamins. If not, check out Part 1 of this blog series! Now, we are officially moving on to the second category of vitamins: fat-soluble vitamins. These are vitamins that the body requires fat, a macronutrient, to absorb. The three macronutrients – fats, proteins, and carbohydrates – make up the bulk of our diets! Some foods that contain healthy fats include nuts, seeds, avocado, olive oil, and fatty fish like salmon.
There are only four vitamins that are fat-soluble: vitamin D, vitamin E, vitamin K, and vitamin A. I’m sure you’ve heard of some of them, but today we will discuss them a little more in depth. Specifically, what these vitamins do for us and where we can find them in our food.
Unlike other fat-soluble vitamins, vitamin D is not found naturally occurring in most foods. Instead, humans obtain vitamin D from the sun. Our skin actually contains a compound which allows us to convert sunlight to vitamin D – pretty cool right?! It follows that getting enough exposure to sunlight, while still protecting our skin with sunscreen, allows us to reap the benefits of this essential nutrient.
So what are the benefits of vitamin D? In addition to the absorption of dietary fats, vitamin D helps us absorb minerals. Two minerals in particular are calcium and phosphorus. Both of which are major minerals with important roles in maintaining strong and healthy bones. We will learn more about these minerals in the coming months!
Vitamin E is a fat-soluble vitamin found in foods such as avocado, almonds, hazelnuts, sunflower seeds, peanuts, spinach, broccoli, and pumpkin! This nutrient promotes healthy skin which allows us to retain that natural glow. This is partly due to the antioxidant properties of vitamin E. Antioxidants protect the cells in our body from free radical damage caused by exposure to environmental toxins, inflammation, too much sunlight, and highly processed foods.
Vitamin K is found in broccoli and dark leafy greens like spinach, kale, and collard greens. This vitamin promotes blood health by acting as a coenzyme, or helper, in blood clotting reactions. These reactions are very important to general health as they prevent uncontrolled bleeding. Vitamin K also supports healthy and strong bones by interacting with calcium, a major mineral involved in bone rebuilding and growth!
Foods rich in vitamin A include pumpkin, carrots, red bell peppers, and sweet potatoes. These orange-red foods contain a pigment called beta carotene, which is converted to vitamin A in our bodies! This important nutrient promotes fat absorption just like all of the other fat-soluble vitamins we’ve talked about. In addition, vitamin A has a special role in promoting eye health and maintaining healthy vision. Just like vitamin E, this vitamin acts as an antioxidant to promote overall cellular health and provide a defense against damage caused by free radicals.
Thank you so much for following along with this mini series! We hope you were able to learn a little more about basic principles in nutrition. Stay tuned for our discussion on trace versus major minerals in the coming months!